RENDEZVOUS WITH MADNESS FILM FESTIVAL from tonight (Thursday, November 8) to November 17. Workman Arts Theatre (1001 Queen West). www.rendezvouswithmadness.com. Rating: NNNNN
The Rendezvous with Madness Film Festival's slogan this year - Insanely Good Films - proves it doesn't take itself too seriously, even if the films themselves deserve serious attention.
A modest hit at this year's TIFF, Carl Bessai's Normal (Rating: NNN, tonight, Thursday, November 8, 7:30 pm) deserves another look.
The ensemble drama follows a group of tortured souls connected by a tragic car accident. Carrie-Anne Moss plays the numb mom of the deceased star basketball player kid, English prof Callum Keith Rennie is t he guilt-ridden driver of the car that ran into him, and so on.
Like Crash, Normal is calculated to push your emotional buttons, and Bessai doesn't restrain his actors from over-emoting.
But the film - and the actors - give us much insight into the psychology of grief, and there's a powerful mid-film scene that's erotic, suspenseful and disturbing all at the same time.
Joseph Greco's Canvas (Rating: NNN, Wednesday, November 14, 7:30 pm) is a modest indie film that got a small release in the U.S. earlier this year, but I think this is th e first time it's screened up here.
Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden plays a schizophrenic woman and Joe Pantoliano and Devon Gearhart h er put-upon husband and son.
Based on Greco's own experiences with his ill mother, the film has a TV-movie-of-the-week feel, but it's sensitive in the way it depicts the shame surrounding mental illness, as well as the financial and emotional toll the disease takes on many families.
Harden and Pantoliano are predictably brilliant together; Pantoliano in particular gets to venture beyond his usual onscreen weaselly stereotype to create a complicated man who still loves his wife even though she no longer resembles the woman he married. What's refreshing is how Greco mixes absurd humour in with the gravitas.
The Devil Within (Le Diable Au Corp) (Rating: NNNN, Friday, November 9, 1:30 pm) is an absorbing, intelligent doc about four people involved in Montreal's Vincent and Me program for artists with mental illnesses. The diverse subjects are incredibly candid, and their descriptions of their illness are by turns horrific and amusing.
Director Louise Lemelin obviously earned a lot of trust from her subjects, and she interweaves the interviews with evocative visual images that illustrate and heighten the stories.